Prominent rock climber gets life for Yosemite sex assaults

A Santa Rosa native and prominent rock climber has been sentenced to life in federal prison for sexual assaults he committed at Yosemite National Park, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.   

Charles Barrett, 40, was found guilty in February of two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact that occurred over a weekend at the park, where he lived and worked. 

One victim went to Yosemite for a weekend of hiking in the summer of 2016, but was sexually assaulted by Barrett three times, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California. 

During the trial, three more women came forward and alleged he had sexually assaulted them. These assaults were outside of federal jurisdiction "but were admitted at trial as relevant to the charged assaults," prosecutors said. 

"The defendant used his renown and physical presence as a rock climber to lure and intimidate victims who were part of the rock-climbing community," said U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert in a statement released by his office. "His violent sexual assaults were devastating to the victims, who he later threatened in the lead-up to trial." 

Prosecutors said that Barrett made "hundreds" of phone calls while in custody prior to his sentencing, and in the calls "he showed no remorse or regret."  

"Instead, he threatened to use violence and vindictive lawsuits against the victims, claiming that they designed a conspiracy to run his life," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.  

According to court documents, in 2017, seven years after he assaulted one of the victims who testified at trial, Barrett purposely climbed at a rock-climbing gym where the victim attended. 

She then disclosed Barrett’s assault on her to the gym owner in the interest of protecting other women at the gym. Barrett responded by harassing and threatening her for several years. In August 2022, he was convicted for criminal threats he made in January 2022.

Climbing magazine called Barrett "a fixture in the climbing scene in California for two decades" following his indictment in August 2022. 

Barrett is also the author of several climbing guides.